Not to be confused with FOMO (fear of missing out), fear-based marketing has been a staple of many ad campaigns over the years – and for a good reason, too: because fear sells.

By using strong appeals to emotion, marketers stoke up fear to change attitudes, influence decision-making and create urgency. Here’s a few examples of fear-based marketing in action.

TV Licensing [2008]

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have been on the receiving end of a threatening TV licensing advert. Whether on TV or outdoors, the tone is usually the same – pay the fee or pay the fine. In this ad, we’re told that it’s all in the database – and ‘evaders will pay’.

Cancer Research [2019]

We all know the cancer risk associated with smoking – but many people are blissfully unaware of the cancer risk that comes with obesity. Cancer research UK used an unusual, yet effective technique to drive awareness of this using artwork that resembles a cigarette packet.

HMRC [2012]

HMRC are renowned for their adverts that target tax dodgers – using a distinct, authoritative tone to deliver their warnings. In this ad, they announce that they’re ‘closing in on undeclared income’ and that ‘if you’ve declared all your income, you have nothing to fear’.

Ladders Free [2005]

When working at height regulations were introduced into the workplace in 2005, window cleaning company LaddersFree reminded business owners of the risk they faced if they didn’t comply with the new directive. In doing so, they seized the opportunity to offer their unique solution to the problem.